It is an article of faith in the wine community that wine is meant to be served with food and should always be shared among friends. It is certainly true that wine enhances most meals and brings life and conviviality to social occasions. But I’m not sure all wines are destined for the communal table. I’ve been reading through Terry Theise’s recent book What Makes a Wine Worth Drinking: In Praise of the Sublime, and I find lots to agree with in this quote:
One evening I served a wine to several guests and wished I hadn’t. Not because they were unworthy of that wine—they were more worthy than I was if it came to that—but because the wine was so noble and galvanic I wanted to be led away into its reverie. But a host has obligations, not least among them not to be vacant and pre-occupied. (Sometimes I wonder if great wine is inimical to socializing, but follow that idea where it takes you and you risk sounding misanthropic.)
Really great wines provoke thought and stimulate the imagination. They demand concentration over an extended time and flourish within silence. Too much commotion means you miss much of what such a wine has to offer. When I’m opening a special bottle at home, I want the bustle of me getting dinner on the table to be out of the way. Of course sharing a great wine with family or friends is also a consummate pleasure but especially so in a small group of like-minded devotees who will not be offended by me being “vacant and pre-occupied”.
Last night I had the pleasure of sharing several gorgeous wines with my tasting group of about 20 friends at a restaurant. It was a glorious evening, the wines were extraordinary, and the conversation delightful. The job of hosting the event was widely shared but I’m still expected to describe and comment on the wines. With only a few minutes to ponder a tasting pour and come up with comments I felt like at the end of the evening I needed to apologize to each wine for being too brusque and ungracious. So much beauty was lost in the press of time management and social obligation. They each deserved more of my attention.
This is of course a problem with no solution. The point of a tasting group is to share the experience. It is much worse to be unfair to friends than to be unfair to a wine. But there was nevertheless something sacrificed that should not go unheeded.
The Greek word for human is anthropos and misein means “to hate”, so to be misanthropic is to hate humans. The Greek word for wine is “oinos”. Is “misoinoic” a word? Perhaps it should be.